My dog Ace was neutered before I adopted him, and I had my two cats neutered because I thought that’s just what you do.

With my future pets, I will not be taking these decisions as lightly. I will carefully look at the individual pet and consider all sorts of factors such as the animal’s age and breed and what sort of diseases he or she may be prone to.

Admittedly, convenience will also be a factor. For example, I’m also not sure I’m up for dealing with a female’s heat cycles, and maybe that alone makes me irresponsible (or at least selfish?).

For this post, I interviewed two dog owners who have chosen not to spay or neuter some of their dogs. I do not believe dog owners should have to give a “reason” for keeping their dogs intact, but these women kindly shared their reasoning for the sake of educating others.

Reasons some dog owners choose not to spay or neuter

Zippy and Marley

Studies show potential health risks of spaying and neutering

Many of you are aware of the studies that just keep coming out about the potential longterm risks of spaying and neutering.

Lisa Runquist has chosen not to have two of her poodles spayed because she is concerned about those potential risks.

She is concerned about her dogs having an increased risk for joint problems and an increased risk for certain types of cancer if they are spayed.

She is right to be concerned.

For example, in a study on golden retrievers, males neutered before 1 year were twice as likely to get hip dysplasia, wrote Dr. Patricia McConnell on her blog The Other End of the Leash. This group was also three times as likely to get lymphosarcoma.

The research also found that female goldens spayed at 1 year old were four times more likely to get cancer of the blood vessels than intact females (or early-spayed females).

Runquist said she does not have plans to spay her dogs in the future, unless there is a specific medical reason to do so.

“I love my dogs and want them to live long, healthy and happy lives,” she said.

[quote_center]”I love my dogs and want them to live long, healthy and happy lives.”[/quote_center]

clover_2Border terrier breeder Tegan Whalan is also concerned about the correlation between spaying and neutering and joint injuries, specifically cranial cruciate ligament tears.

One of her border terriers, Clover (pictured), has had three litters and is now retired at 6.5 years old.

Whalan does not plan to have Clover spayed.

“Her mother was spayed at about 7 years old, and then pretty soon after busted both her cranial cruciate ligaments,” Whalan said.

She has also referenced the golden retriever study on her blog and believes spaying Clover would be too risky.

“If for some reason I do decide to risk it, I’ll be getting pet insurance first,” she said.

Being ‘responsible’ has nothing to do with spaying and neutering

One of the main reasons people are encouraged to spay or neuter their dogs is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This is the “responsible” thing to do, or so we’re told.

[quote_right]”Responsible dog ownership is about keeping your dog physically and mentally healthy …”[/quote_right]

Realistically, there are ways to keep our dogs from breeding without having them altered. You know, like keeping them on a leash.

Runquist said her dogs are never allowed to roam, even when they’re not “in season.” And really, isn’t that what any responsible owner would do?

“I am not an irresponsible owner and will treat my dogs in whatever way I and my vet determine is best,” Runquist said. “It really is not anyone else’s business.”

As a registered breeder, Whalan said she rarely gets told that she is “irresponsible” for keeping her dogs intact. However, she is frequently accused of being irresponsible for suggesting that others might also keep their dogs intact.

“It’s ludicrous to me that ‘responsibility’ is about committing your dog to a convenience operation,” she said. “Responsible dog ownership is about keeping your dog physically and mentally healthy and making sure your dog doesn’t negatively impact on the community.”

She added, “Gonads have moot to do with this!”

Just because a dog is intact doesn’t mean the dog will be bred

Landy“There seems to be some confusion between pets being entire, and pets being used for breeding,” Whalan said. “They are different things!”

She said there are plenty of reasons to keep your dog intact, and “that does not have to include because you want puppies.”

For example, her 6-year-old deerhound named Landy (pictured) is not neutered.

“That’s not a spring-chicken in deerhound years,” she said. “He’s entire because I believe in ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken.’”

She said she has had Landy for six months, and he causes her no trouble as an intact male.

“I see no reason to de-sex him,” she said.

Whalan lives in South Australia and when the government there proposed that all animals that failed a temperament test would have to be spayed or neutered, she and a friend formed a small protest called “Entirely Friendly.”

Entirely Friendly is now a Faceook page. The group rejects “compulsory de-sexing” and advocates for intact dogs and their owners, according to its page.

And what about responsible breeding?

Many people do not know there are responsible breeders out there who work to advance their breed, Runquist said. At this time, she does not have any intention of breeding her own dogs.

“Many good breeders spend significantly more than they will ever recover from the sale of pups,” she said.

Plus, the breeders she knows will always take back a dog if the purchaser decides they don’t want it, rather than allowing it to be surrendered to a shelter.

Whalan is a good example of a breeder who admittedly does not make money from her puppies. She is also heavily involved in rescue work and even has her own rescue group, Leema Rescue. You can read more about how breeders and rescues work together in my interview with Whalan here.

What do you think?

If you choose to spay or neuter your dog, there is nothing wrong with that. I just want all dog owners to understand this is not such a black and white issue, and you do have a choice in the matter.

When we start using labels such as “responsible” or “irresponsible” based on little information, we are not helping the dogs and we are not helping each other.

Are there any reasons why you would choose not to spay or neuter your dog?

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